Steve Connor: Money is not the answer to this problem

Share
Related Topics

Vaccines were one of the great medical success stories of the 20th century – the eradication of smallpox and vanquishing of polio and measles are testament to their success. But an HIV vaccine poses an altogether different challenge, largely because of the unique characteristics of this elusive virus.

The failure of the Merck clinical trial of the most promising HIV vaccine at the end of last year is widely seen as a major setback, and many Aids scientists now believe that a radical change in the direction of research is now needed.

This is not just about throwing money at the problem, as Gordon Brown suggested in 2005 when, as Chancellor, he launched the International Finance Facility to boost funding on HIV vaccine research, among other projects aimed at improving the health of the developing world. Mr Brown lamented that, worldwide, only £400m a year was spent on researching an HIV vaccine, which was projected to lead to a partly effective vaccine by 2020. "If, by doubling research and development spending over the coming five to 10 years we could bring forward the discovery of an Aids vaccine, we could save millions of lives," he said.

Unfortunately science doesn't work like that. Unlike an engineering project such as the Channel tunnel, throwing twice as much money at a problem does not mean you get there twice as quick.

Trying to develop an HIV vaccine is a bit like digging a hole in the ground, but unlike the Channel tunnel you don't know where the digging might lead. The question is whether at some point we should stop. Few of the scientists who took part in our survey believe that this time has come, and most would no doubt say that an HIV vaccine is too important to ever give up on.

For the past quarter of a century, scientists have made tremendous advances in analysing and understanding the uniquely difficult properties of the virus that causes Aids. But an HIV vaccine is as far away as ever.

However, it took nearly 50 years to develop the polio vaccine and nearly as long to make an effective vaccine against the measles virus. And as any malaria scientist will tell you, the history of this pernicious disease is littered with failed vaccine attempts.

So the time to give up on an HIV vaccine has not yet come, and perhaps it never will, given that prevention based on education does not appear to have stopped the spread of the virus.

But the reality is that an HIV vaccine is one of the most difficult scientific problems of our age. Scientists need our support and encouragement to redouble their efforts so that one day the scourge of Aids will be history – just like smallpox.

Click here to have your say

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ice skating in George Square, Glasgow  

How many Christmas cards have you sent this year?

Simon Kelner
 

Al-Sweady Inquiry: An exercise in greed that blights the lives of brave soldiers

Richard Kemp
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum